Monday, December 17, 2018
Best Animated Short 2018 - The Shortlist
Back in September, Cartoon Brew posted a list of films that had qualified for the Best Animated Short Oscar, either through winning festivals or Student Academy Awards or through public exhibition. Rather than post the entire list which is what Cartoon Brew already did, I eulogized Will Vinton instead. I decided to wait until the shortlist was announced before writing about them. Traditionally the shortlist had been announced at the end of November, but that day came and went with no announcement. Last year the announcement was announced on December 4, but that day came and went. I waited and waited and kept trying to find as many of the qualifying films as possible. At last, the Academy dropped the shortlist for nine different categories, including Best Animated Short. We finally have a list of the films that would be competing for the Best Animated Short Oscar!
Amid Amidi of Cartoon Brew criticized the shortlist as being a "weak reflection of the state of contemporary animation short-form filmmaking," pointing out that the fact that the majority of the most critically acclaimed and artistic films were left off in favor of popular fare made by large studios. He may have a point, but unfortunately that had been a trend that had been going on for several years, and it would probably get even worse as the Academy opens voting for the category to every eligible voter, and not just voters in the animation branch. Meanwhile we get a lineup of films that has popular appeal, which may appeal to the public, but not necessarily to animation connoisseurs. Oh well. Here are the films on the shortlist. I'll refrain from posting a full review even if it's a film I've seen. I'll post the full film if it is available.
Age of Sail
Paperman, a film which featured traditional hand drawn textures on 3D CGI models. Since then he had left Disney and had been working on his own projects. One of these projects is Age of Sail, a film made for Google Spotlight Films, which had also featured the Oscar nominated Pearl. The highlight of the Google Spotlight Films is that it gives viewers the opportunity to view an entire animated world, which can be understandably exhilarating, but for the purposes of these films they present a pre-cut version with set camera angles. That takes away from some of the mystique. Age of Sail refers to a period when sailing ships were the primary method of naval transport, as this is set in the dying days when the sailboats were mostly replaced by large steamships. This film tells the tale of an old sailboat captain and a woman he rescued that had fallen overboard. It is quite dialogue-heavy for a Google Spotlight Story, but the action sequences were fairly well done. This is a film that is available in its entirety online.
Bob's Birthday. This in turn spawned a popular TV series starring the main characters titled Bob and Margaret. In the middle of the series' run the pair emigrated to Canada where they got to enjoy the support of the Canadian government through the National Film Board of Canada. After several years of contributing to the popular television series "Peppa Pig," Snowden and Fine come back with their first new film in several years: Animal Behaviour. This film is set within a partially anthropomorphic universe where animals walk and talk but do not wear any clothes. Because they have the power of voice, they do have complex psychological issues. This film features a canine psychologist Dr. Clement leading a group therapy session with a large group of animals that eventually go awry. Animal Behaviour gets bonus points for featuring My Little Pony siblings Ryan Beil as the canine therapist and Andrea Libman as a mantis with a penchant for social media and eating her mates.The full film is not available yet, but given the fact it is sponsored by the National Film Board of Canada, we can only hope it would by Oscar time.
The Lost Thing. The project was revived as this short film. I have no idea when it is going to play or how we would see it, but it impressed the Academy enough to get it on the shortlist.
The Head Vanishes from two years ago tells the story of a demented lady on a trip to the beach. Late Afternoon is fairly different stylistically from the earlier film, using a softer look that seems more similar to the style of Alison Snowden and David Fine. Perhaps that would give it more of an emotional impact, but I wouldn't know.
Lost & Found
film's website now and check it out, and you can also see some of the clever For Your Consideration advertisements the film's producers have made.
One Small Step
Pepe le Morse (Grandpa Walrus)
The Old Lady and the Pigeons. I was a bit surprised it made the shortlist given that it is so different thematically from Oscar's normal fare, but we could always use a bit of the surreal in this category.
Borrowed Time and The Dam Keeper, both of which were made by animators working on huge studio blockbusters. Both of those other films received Oscar nominations. Weekends was the one shortlisted film that was named by the most of Cartoon Brew's critics. Would that be enough for an Oscar nomination? Who knows?
One of these things I've noticed is that a good half of the films received inspiration from Asian culture. Bao and One Small Step discussed Chinese families living in Canada and America respectively. Lost & Found was set within a Japanese restaurant. Bird Karma makes use of the Hindu concept and uses Indian music. And the father in Weekends is shown to have a lot of Japanese decor. Does that mean anything? Not necessarily. The nominees for this category is exceedingly hard to predict. I think I'll focus my time on trying to track down the other five shortlisted films rather than make a prediction which would most likely be wrong. Meanwhile you can discuss the films in the comments below. At least it'll make me believe people are actually reading.